In response to alarming reports from a whistleblower who worked as a nurse at the Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia, Noah Gottschalk, Oxfam America’s Global Policy Lead, made the following statement:
“Such horrific allegations of mass hysterectomies without informed consent and other medical mistreatment of women in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) shock the conscience and demand an urgent investigation and justice for survivors.
“Thanks to the bravery of detained individuals who have come forward about their experiences, the atrocious conditions in ICE detention centers have been well-documented, including by the Department of Homeland Security’s own internal watchdog. However, these new allegations are a new low, shedding further light on the complete disregard shown by ICE for women in their custody. The reported violations of the bodily integrity and reproductive health of immigrant women also add to a long and disturbing history of racist violence in our country.
“These allegations underscore the systematic abuse of rights that has been allowed to fester and grow in our nation’s immigration detention system, highlighting the need for people to be released from detention now.
“While immigration detention is inhumane, it is particularly cruel in the midst of a pandemic. Social distancing is impossible, people have been forced to pay for the basic hygiene materials they need to keep themselves safe, and ICE continues to spread the virus by deporting people and transferring them between facilities. ICE must immediately begin releasing people, starting with people in high-risk categories, including people over age 60, pregnant people, and those with pre-existing conditions or compromised immune systems, as health experts have advised. Doing so would not only be safe and manageable, but also a vital step towards upholding the rights of immigrants and asylum seekers in the US.
“We call on Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf to submit to Congressional requests for oversight into his agency’s treatment of women in Irwin County Detention Center and of all the people under its care. Shocking abuses have taken place under his watch, and he must answer for them.”